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What is a Room Rental Agreement?
A room rental agreement is a legal contract that defines the rights and expectations of all people that reside in a rental unit, including individuals not listed on the original residential lease between the landlord and master tenant.
As a renter of an apartment or a home in Arizona, it may be beneficial to have roommates to share the expenses. Before taking in a roommate, there are things to check and consider that will help make sure the process goes well and will not cause unnecessary problems. This is a step-by-step guide for what to do when finding a roommate and how to create a roommate agreement.
Review the Rental Agreement
The first thing to do is to carefully check the terms and conditions of the rental agreement to make sure having a roommate is allowed.
Here are the things to look for in the agreement:
- Authorized Tenants: Read any terms and conditions that create limits on authorized tenants. Look for phrases in the rental agreement such as, “only the named persons ____ are permitted to live in the rental unit.”
- Occupancy Limits: Search for any terms in the rental agreement that place an occupancy limit on the number of people who can live in the rental unit. Note that unless the rental unit is legally age-restricted for older adults, it is against Arizona law under Section 33-1317 to discriminate against any occupants with children.
- Guest Rules: Most rental agreements have a section that describes the rules for guests. Some agreements place a limit on the number of guests and the time that they are allowed to stay in the rental unit.
- Sublease: Check for any clauses in the rental agreement that prohibit subleasing the rental unit. Having a roommate is technically the same as subleasing a portion of the rental unit.
If there are things in the rental agreement that prohibit having a roommate, discuss them with the landlord. Get a written waiver of those terms and conditions from the landlord before seeking a roommate.
Even if the rental agreement does not have any terms and conditions that prohibit having a roommate, it is still a good idea to inform the landlord of the intention to have a roommate and get the landlord to agree in writing to allow it.
Once a roommate is chosen and moves in, inform the landlord of that person’s name and their general description in writing (or give a photo), so that the landlord knows that person has a legitimate reason to be on the property and in the rental unit. Tell nearest neighbors also. This will help avoid confusion and not have a new roommate mistaken for a burglar.
Be Careful Selecting a Roommate
It is important to understand that the signers of the original rental agreement are responsible for what happens with the rental unit. Unless the roommate signs a rental agreement directly with the landlord, the original tenants are 100% responsible for what a roommate does.
A roommate agreement can make damages by a roommate their responsibility; however, as a practical matter, if they fail to take care of a problem they caused, ultimately the responsibility falls back on the signers of the rental agreement with the landlord.
If the roommate’s activity violates the terms and conditions of the rental agreement, all the people in the rental unit can be evicted. Additionally, any damages caused by a roommate to the rental unit are the financial responsibility of the person(s) who signed the original lease.
Roommates have some risk also. A roommate who is not causing any problems may be evicted along with the original tenants if the original signers on the rental agreement are the source of the problems. A roommate agreement is subordinate (less strong) to the terms and conditions of the original rental agreement.
Roommate Rental Application
Care must be taken to find a good roommate by having them fill out a rental application and then run a background and credit check. Make sure the application explicitly requests permission to run these background checks. It is allowed under Arizona law to charge the prospective roommate a fee for this background check according to what it costs.
Evaluate a potential roommate while following all the rules that prohibit discrimination. The Arizona state law that governs rental agreements is the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
Follow Arizona Anti-Discrimination Laws and Required Disclosures
Pay careful attention to things that are prohibited by Arizona state law in Section 33-1315 and do not include any of these prohibited terms in a roommate agreement.
If the rental unit was built before the 1978, give the roommate a copy of the lead-based paint hazard disclosure. Also, under Arizona state law Section 33-1319 there is a requirement to give any tenant educational information about bed bugs. Give the roommate a copy of this information that the landlord provides.
Writing the Arizona Room Rental Agreement
The task of creating a room rental agreement usually falls to the landlord of the property. Landlords possess experience with rentals that make them uniquely able to anticipate conflict between roommates and address these in the agreement. This guide contains step-by-step instructions for creating a room rental agreement in the state of Arizona.
Make sure the roommate agreement refers in writing to the original rental agreement and includes all the terms and conditions of that rental agreement by reference. Include a copy of the rental agreement as an attachment.
In the agreement, inform a roommate that they can review the Arizona Landlord/Tenant law by downloading a copy of Section 33, Chapter 10.
1. Information Section
In the first section, include the date that the roommate agreement begins and the date it ends, if it has a specific termination date. If the original rental agreement has a specific termination date, use that same date or sooner. Otherwise, a roommate agreement may not have a specific end date if it is a weekly or a monthly rental agreement.
Include the names and contact information of all parties in the roommate agreement. As a safety measure, include the contact information for the landlord and/or the property manager for the roommate to use in the case of an emergency.
2. Security Deposit
Arizona law limits a security deposit to one and one-half month’s rent for the rental unit. A roommate’s security deposit must be no more than this amount and should be proportionally based on the amount of space occupied by the roommate. State the portion of the security deposit for the roommate.
Any security deposit or portion of it that is not-refundable must be clearly stated. After the roommate moves out, Arizona law Section 33-1321(D) requires that the security deposit be refunded within 14 days (not including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) less any legitimate deductions for the cost to repair damage made by the roommate to the rental unit.
3. Rent and Late Fees
State the amount of the rent that the roommate pays and the day of the month (or week) that the rent is due. Note acceptable forms of payment such as cash, money order, or personal check. State any late payment fees and when they are charged (typically five days after the rent is due).
If utilities are shared, and the roommate will pay a portion of the utilities, state the proportion for the roommate. Describe in mathematical detail how the utility bill will be allocated among the tenants of the rental unit. State the day of the month that the utility payment is due. If a security deposit is needed for the utilities, state the proportional amount the roommate will pay of the utility security deposit.
5. Other Shared Expenses/Amenities
If there are other expenses such as food bills that will be shared, state them and how the bills will be allocated. If the rental unit has parking and/or storage space that will be shared, state how that space will be shared.
6. Cleaning and Shared Responsibilities
If the roommate will be obligated to participate in the cleaning efforts for the common areas of the rental unit, state how that process will work, such as by using a cleaning schedule showing who must do the work and when.
7. Rules of Conduct
State the rules of how the roommate must conduct themselves and whether they can bring guests to the rental unit.
8. Additional Terms
Include any other requirements that cover the particular circumstances of the roommate agreement and the rental unit.
9. Sign and Date
Each party to the agreement should sign it and date it. Have another adult person, who is not a party to the agreement, sign as a witness to the signatures. Give a signed copy to all the parties and a courtesy copy to the landlord.
Having a roommate used to be something that was mostly for college students. Now, the cost of living and paying rent is so high in many parts of America that having a roommate is becoming much more common for adults of all ages. The millennial generation is facing either continuing to live with parents or needing to have roommates to be able to live on their own.
Finding a good roommate is critical because you have to live with them on a full-time basis. For example, if you are a person who likes a very clean living space, having a sloppy roommate, who always leaves dirty dishes in the sink, will drive you crazy. A roommate matching service can help find roommates with personalities that work together to reduce these issues. Be aware that just because two people belong to the same affinity group with similar interests, how they live may be quite dissimilar.
Evicting a roommate is not easy and can be very stressful. Another major concern is that how a roommate acts can get everyone evicted. Arizona is a landlord-friendly state and certain illegal activities, such as drug dealing, can get someone evicted very quickly.
Four things help to avoid problems, which are 1) If possible, choose roommates from people you already like, who you have visited where they live, to see how they live; 2) run a background and credit check, so there are no hidden surprises; 3) have a clear, detailed, written roommate agreement, and; 4) make sure that the landlord allows roommates.